Who on earth has been aliveanytime in the last 50 odd years and hasn’t heard of the King of the Ring?Muhammad Ali, the one true champion of the masses.
Campfire brings to us thelegend of Ali in the form of a captivating graphic novel written by Lewis Helfandand beautifully illustrated by Lalit Kumar Sharma and it was launched in theComic Con Express along with Jungle Book.
Ali is considered to be a truechampion and one of the greatest sportsmen ever by many critics.
He was not only a Boxer butalso a philanthropist and a social activist. Ali, as most of us would know, wasborn Cassius Clay, but converted to Islam after joining the Nation of Islam outof protest against racial discrimination, which was predominant and popular inthe 60s in America, despite several laws and social protests against any formof racial prejudice.
Ali has been a legend and aninspiration to people of all ages and era, and not without reason.
Lewis Helfand has done afantastic job of compacting the immensely colorful like of Ali in a slightlyless than 100 page comic, which was then brought to life by none other than ourvery own resident genius, Lalit Kumar Sharma.
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The first page of the graphicnovel seemed to me, immensely popular and not without reason. Campfire had organizeda competition where the aspiring artists were given a copy of the script forpage 1 and they had to draw their own interpretation based on that script.
We, at Comic Addicts, hadhosted an event in conjunction with Campfire and Mocha Trip where Lalit hadorganized a workshop to talk about composition, the making of a comic book andthe likes and we were also witness to some amazing art work from the MuhammadAli Art Attack Contest participants!
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The story of Ali’s life is asinteresting as it is complex and Lewis has done a commendable job to bring itto us in a form which is easily understandable without losing its realsignificance and the finely hidden meaning behind Ali’s struggle and the thingshe did, the way he did it, and why he did it.
The book starts with the lifeof the young Cassius Clay, who although not as poor as many other blacks in thesame period, but had to endure the racial treatment which was displayed towardsall blacks in the 60s America. They were not allowed in Hotels, were seatedonly at the back of the Buses, and not allowed to work at several places, apartfrom the general preference of picking up white folks for pretty much anythingthat was considered worth doing.
Clay was initially puzzled andlater angry by this sort of treatment and even at that young age, you could seethe determination of the young boy to fight back against any kind ofdiscrimination.
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He finds his mentor in the formof a kind hearted policeman Joe Martin who took Clay under his wing and gavehim the path and the direction he so desperately required to fulfil the destinyhe had selected for himself.
Martin not only taught him thebasics of boxing but also gave him important lessons about the right thing andthe wrong thing to do. He was a major influence on Clay, early on in his life.
Clay starts from the verybottom and rises up in the world of amateur boxing and then semi-professionalfollowed by an unknown entry in the Rome Olympicsin 1960, with Martin as his Coach.
Clay not only rose steadily, hewent ahead and WON the Olympic Gold Medal for Light Heavy-weight Boxing. Lateron he threw his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River after beingrefused service at a ‘whites-only’ restaurant, and fighting with a white gang.
Clay realized that his winningthe Olympic Gold did not grant him an automatic entry to the world of the“superior” white people and to find an understanding, if not an immediate solution;he joined the Nation of Islam under Malcolm X. Clay then changed his name toCassius X and then to Muhammad Ali.
This raised a lot ofcontroversies and many fans and critics admonished this change, but Ali, likethe true champion he was, just went on and on with his Wins and silenced hiscritics.
The story takes us through thelife and professional career of Ali as he makes up his way to the Championshipand is crowned the undefeated champion of the Boxing World.
We are walked through some ofthe most interesting matches in his career, like the bout with Joe Frazier,George Foreman and Ken Norton. Lalit has done a wonderful job with thefantastic artwork depicting the fight scenes with finesse and awesome detail.
We get to hear all the famousphrases of Ali, like “I’m the greatest, I’m the prettiest, I’m the best”, “I’mthe king”, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” and many others (Yes. I’mnot giving everything away!!)
We also come to know about thelater part of Ali’s life and the work he did for society and sports in generaland is still doing his part, despite being riddled by Parkinson’s and sufferingvarious injuries in the course of his career.
This graphic novel is a keepand worth every penny. A great, sorry the Greatest Subject, coupled with agripping script and very well done artwork makes The King of the Ring a bookworth buying and keeping.
So go and get it for yourselfTODAY! I say Yay!